March 20, 2023
Surrounded by people in suits, the woman decked in an orange sari and tube-top blouse with her hair in a large bun stood out. As she sat behind a podium in City Hall in Newark, New Jersey, along with Mayor Ras J. Baraka and other city officials, her arm showed a large tattoo of a man’s smiling face. The woman, Vijayapriya Nithyananda, was there for the signing of a “sister city agreement” between Newark and her country, the United States of Kailasa.
If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s not because you’re bad at geography. The United States of Kailasa has no legal recognition and there isn’t much evidence to suggest it physically exists. Yet, representatives of Kailasa — the brainchild of Nithyananda, an Indian cult leader with a non-bailable arrest warrant against him — have been jetting across the globe on diplomatic missions. They’ve signed sister city agreements with 30 U.S. cities and met with diplomats from several countries, and attended United Nations meetings.
Nithyananda and Kailasa have now become somewhat of a running joke. At first glance, the sister city scam and fake Hindu nation racket appear to speak to the ignorance or naivete of the West. But the grim reality of his organization, along with its mostly female victims, tells a far more insidious story.